US soldier charged with murder
A US soldier has been charged with the murders of three Afghan civilians.
Specialist Jeremy Morlock was charged with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault, the US Army said.
Morlock, 22, is an infantryman assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He entered the military in June 2006.
Morlock was deployed in July 2009 with his unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state on Friday and was charged. He has been placed in pre-trial confinement.
Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Tamara Parker said the charges against Morlock involve three separate events alleged to have happened between January and May at or near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Afghanistan. She said she had no further details on the victims or circumstances.
Lt Col Parker said other soldiers are being investigated but she could only discuss Morlock since he is the only one to have returned to the Washington state base.
The maximum penalty for conviction for premeditated murder would be life in prison or the death penalty, she added. Army prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.
About 10 members of an army unit based at Fort Lewis have been under investigation for as many as three civilian deaths in Afghanistan, along with other potential wrongdoing, a senior military official said last month.
The official did not have details of the investigation but confirmed that the 5th Stryker Brigade was under scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the US Army is planning to spend as much as 100 million dollars (£69 million) to expand its special operations headquarters in northern Afghanistan, evidence of its increasing reliance on covert operations. The project is one of many in the Obama administration, as it seeks billions in budget increases to counter expanded terror threats from abroad. It also comes as thousands of US troops arrive in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's ordered build-up.